Every year the northern sky plays host to one of Earth’s brightest astronomical events – the Perseids Meteor Shower. I was lucky enough to witness this celestial display for myself in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Specifically, if you’re wondering where to see the Perseids meteor shower, I visited Dana Nature Reserve, though On The Go Tours’ dedicated tour now enjoys the spectacle from the red desert of Wadi Rum, away from any light pollution.
To enhance the experience of a meteor shower you need three things: clear skies, no artificial light, and patience. The first and second requirements are not a problem in Jordan, thanks to its dry summer climate and remote desert landscapes. Patience, however, is where you might struggle. But thankfully for us, we didn’t have to wait long until that first meteor shot across the night sky.
Stargazing in Dana Nature Reserve
A bumpy and dusty ride in the back of a 4×4 took us to our accommodation for the night in Feynan Ecolodge. Nestled deep in the mountainous landscape of Dana Nature Reserve, it seemed the perfect place to watch the stars. Named one of the best ecolodges in the world by National Geographic Magazine, Feynan is run entirely on solar energy and is candlelit after dark. If you’re wondering where to see the Perseids meteor shower, then this is a great option for you!
Shortly after our arrival, we were taken on a walk by a local Bedouin. Hiking to a lookout point, we watched the sun disappear whilst enjoying a cup of traditional black and mint tea. By the time we returned to the lodge, darkness had descended and it was alight in the glow of candles.
Following a delicious vegetarian dinner, we headed up to the roof and settled ourselves on the mattresses laid out. With no artificial light our eyes soon adjusted to the darkness and then, as if by magic, the sky was filled with stars. A local astronomer pointed out various constellations, including the Milky Way, the Big Dipper, and the North Star. We were also able to test out a 10-inch Mead telescope for a closer view.
A unified gasp was let out on the rooftop as we spotted our first meteor streaking across the horizon. The next few hours were spent gazing upwards in awe, as meteor after meteor passed by overhead. Some were faint and small, while others were bright and vivid, seeming to stretch across the entire sky. I initially tried to keep count, but eventually, I lost track and allowed myself to simply enjoy the moment.
What causes the Perseids Meteor Shower?
As I laid back and marvelled at the streaks of light crossing the night sky above me, I wondered what was causing this magnificent celestial display. The answer surprised me, as what I was actually seeing were pieces of space debris from the Comet Swift-Tuttle. Turns out, when the debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere it heats up before bursting into flames. This burst was creating the bright path I saw in the sky.
The Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest known object in the solar system to repeatedly pass by Earth. Although the comet only passes by every 133 years, the dust and debris left in its wake remain in the Earth’s orbit. These pieces of debris – most just the size of a grain of sand – are what cause the meteor shower we see every year.
The shower rises to a gradual peak over several weeks. This culminates in the spectacular display visible on the night of 12th August and early morning of 13th August. During the height of the shower, more than 80 meteors can fall an hour. Or in an outburst year – like 2016 – between 150-200 meteors can fall every hour.
Whether you see one bright meteor fall across the night sky or dozens, you’re bound to be astounded. Every moment spent under the stars is worth it to be a part of this magical celestial event.
Experience this spectacular astronomical event for yourself in Jordan with our Perseids Meteor Shower group tour, departing in August each year.